Killer USB: a unique way to destroy remote computer / Laptop.
A Russian researcher, nicknamed Dark Purple, heard an unusual story from a friend about “Killer USB”. It seems that a person stole an USB flash drive from the outer pocket of someone’s bag who was just passing by. This USB drive had “128” number written on it. Thinking that the USB would have some essential data this thief inserted the USB flash in his laptop and within a matter of few minutes half laptop was totally burnt down. The thief has now put “129” on this USB drive and it lies in the outer pocket of his bag!! Seems to be an unusual concept taken directly from a fiction movie and the idea can be used by some hackers to get a remote computer or Laptop burnt half down.
Dark Purple, in turn felt this concept interesting too and set out to assemble a “Killer USB”. Since he worked in a firm which manufactures electronics he had plenty of opportunity to built a personal Killer USB drive and even had a circuit ready for this concept. As per Dark Purple :”As a rule, the USB interface of a computer has a USB plug connection -> ESD diodes (static protection) -> filter elements -> security elements in the chip that contains the physical layer of the USB interface. In modern computers, the USB “physics” is built almost in the processor. In older computers, North/South bridges are in charge of the USB. The task of the designed USB flash drive is to burn all of this stuff, or at least kill the USB port.” Soon he ordered for some components needed for this circuit and built a “full-fledged prototype” and started his experiment to derive an appropriate circuit that can burn down anything! Once he landed on correct circuit he ordered a detailed printed circuit board from China and was successful in building an “apt version of Killer USB” which looked like “regular USB drive”.
Dark Purple says: “The basic idea of the USB drive is quite simple. When we connect it up to the USB port, an inverting DC/DC converter runs and charges capacitors to -110V. When the voltage is reached, the DC/DC is switched off. At the same time, the filed transistor opens. It is used to apply the -110V to signal lines of the USB interface. When the voltage on capacitors increases to -7V, the transistor closes and the DC/DC starts. The loop runs till everything possible is broken down.”
Just last year in a demonstration a security firm showed that computer can be set on fire by increasing the temperature of the computer, they used Apple’s Mac computer in their demonstration. This shows that by increasing the temperature or using specific USB drives a computer or Laptop can be converted into live bomb!
Wondering who would be the next person who will have to write “130” on the USB. Well I personally feel that this could be a tough lesson to all the thieves out there!!